Worldwide Maternity Pay, Time Off All Over the Map

January 21, 2003 ( - Pregnant women around the world get a wide variety of maternity benefits, according to a new study.

According to the Mercer Human Resource Consulting study, Greece, Luxembourg, and the UK have the lowest level of statutory maternity pay in the European Union (EU), while Denmark, Italy, and Sweden have the most generous allowances. These comparisons are based on statutory pay over six months of leave and are expressed in US dollars.

For a woman earning $25,000 a year, total pay accumulated after six months’ maternity leave would be just $2,083 in Greece, $2,883 in Luxembourg and $4,009 in the UK. Yet the entitlements in Denmark, Italy, and Sweden would be as much as $10,556, $10,096 and $10,000, respectively.

Outside the EU, the provider of the highest level of benefits is Norway, where an employee earning the equivalent of $25,000 a year would receive $12,500 after six months’ leave. In Eastern Europe, the level of maternity pay again varies widely. The Czech Republic and Russia provide the lowest level of benefits (the equivalent of $1,762 and $2,000, respectively), while Hungary and Poland offer more than the EU average ($8,077 and $7,692, respectively).

Globally, maternity benefits appear to be lower outside Europe, with the exception of Brazil, where an individual earning the equivalent of $25,000 would receive $11,538. In Australia, women do not receive any statutory maternity benefits, although they are given a government allowance of $448. Asian countries such as Singapore and Taiwan also have low levels of maternity pay – the equivalent of $3,846 in both countries, according to Mercer.

Amount of Time Off Also Varies

There are vast differences in the total number of weeks of statutory maternity leave both within Europe and globally, the study found.

In the EU, Sweden offers the most leave, at 96 weeks. Denmark, Italy, Finland and the UK also have generous provisions, where women are entitled to up to 50, 47, 44, and 40 weeks’ leave respectively. In contrast, German women are only entitled to 14 weeks’ leave – a fraction of the Swedish allowance. Similarly, the allowance in Belgium is low, at 15 weeks and the US, with a paltry 12 weeks.

Additionally, the length of maternity leave often reflects the culture of the country and may be influenced by factors such as religion, social policies and changing demographics in the workplace. Asian countries provide the least number of weeks’ statutory maternity leave. Women in Singapore and Taiwan are entitled to just eight weeks and in Hong Kong, 10 weeks. In contrast, women in Australia and New Zealand are entitled to take up to 52 weeks’ leave, while in Canada the entitlement is 50 weeks.

In Eastern Europe, the most generous maternity leave allowance is in the Czech Republic (28 weeks), followed by Poland (26 weeks) and Hungary (24 weeks). Russia has the least, at 20 weeks.

The research is part of Mercer’s global analysis of employment conditions and benefits in 60 countries worldwide.